• Garbage Return after 7 years: El Rey night 1 2012-04-09

    Apr 23 2012, 0:42

    Mon 9 Apr – Garbage, Laura Escude, DJ Darren Revell

    I'm writing this review from the airplane, as we fly over Nevada, where I'll be in a few short days for the next Garbageaholics Anonymous meeting in Las Vegas (also known as show #3 of the tour). To sum up the past two days....WOWZERS! I met a ton of really fantastic people at the shows, I chatted with Duke and very, very briefly chatted with Butch (two very cool and down to earth guys) and experienced two concerts I will remember for a lifetime. Not a bad way to spend my 30th birthday.

    I arrived at the El Rey at about 4:00 and the first thing I hear out of Dan "the Garbage Man's" mouth was "You just missed the band." *doh* All three of the Garbage Men had just wandered out of the venue literally 4 minutes before my friend and I arrived. They stopped over to sign a few autographs and chatted and then went off to do their thing. It became a running joke for the rest of the trip that I needed to leave so all the cool stuff could happen. I missed the band come back when I went off in search of ice cream and a rest room. Strike two.

    I didn't see any scalpers at this gig, so requiring will call for the show was extremely effective in making sure the tickets got directly into the hands of the fans. The line wrapped around the block by the time doors opened at 6:30, right on time. The people at The El Rey do not mess around - they run an extremely tight ship and had someone handing out the 21+ wrist bands well before doors opened. The one thing I found a bit odd was that they made everyone dispose of any chewing gum, packs and all. They were actually checking bags for gum. Weird. The working theory is that the venue is a historic building and thus, no gum allowed. Other than having to dispose of a rather fresh pack of gum, picking up the will call tickets was painless and we headed into the venue to secure our spot.

    The group of Garbage Board members that had been waiting since 7 AM secured the front row, just to the right of center on Duke's side. My friend and I were to the far right, three people back, in front of Duke and very close to the rest of our group. There were two steps up to a carpeted VIP box on this side, and I was on the first step, so I had a great view, though I did have to shoot photos around heads and arms.

    The El Rey is a very cool venue with fantastic sight lines, ornate chandeliers and red carpet. There's a balcony with tables for "gold level" and/or VIP seating, ornate chandeliers, a large and fairly tall stage and overall screams class. It reminded me a lot of Minneapolis' Varsity Theater, but with a more polished or uniform overall feel to the decor. The El Rey was the perfect place for Garbage to make their return.

    After arriving inside, we waited for another 90 minutes for opener Laura Escude to take the stage while being treated to an eclectic mix of tunes spun by DJ Darren Revell. This abnormally long wait time allowed everyone in line to get their will call tickets and get inside in time for Escude's enchanting set.

    Though I'm a die hard Garbage fan and was extremely excited to see them perform for the second time ever, I was also quite interested in seeing Laura Escude's set. She's a violinist, composer and electronic musician, and as a violinist myself, I always love seeing acts that include live violin. Her stage setup was fairly simple: a laptop with a couple of illuminated looping/mixing gadgets atop a stand, and a 5 string traditional style violin. Her set was fairly ethereal and atmospheric but at the same time included some very nice, fat beats.

    There's a great photo of her rig on her official Tumblr. The set concluded with an unreleased remix of an M83 song. so look for that soon. Laura Escude is a woman of many talents, including the show (music) tech design for the Garbage tour, and I highly recommend checking out her official website to learn more.

    At 9 pm on the dot, Garbage's intro music came on: Time Will Destroy Everything, a song recorded during the Not Your Kind of People sessions, but not included in any edition of the album. It will be interesting to see where this song ultimately surfaces. It's quite electronic and funky, even employing vocoded vocals, which isn't something they've done a lot in the past and I definitely look forward to hearing the full song.

    The lights were dark when the boys in the band took the stage and started into Supervixen. And then, with a flash of light, Shirley Manson strutted up to the microphone and the crowd, which had been waiting 7 or more years for this moment, completely erupted. Shirley Manson hasn't lost a thing in the 7 year hiatus and owned the stage with her presence and charisma. It seems The Queen got her way on the wardrobe of the evening and Steve, Butch and Duke were all dressed up in dress shirts and ties. Shirley came out looking very regal, wearing a gorgeous grey, white and red shawl over..well..I'll just show you...

    The shawl and high heels came off fairly quickly, allowing Shirley much more mobility. The set was fast paced and there was little time spent talking between songs, perhaps due in part to nerves, though the lack of banter was the only indication that the band may have been nervous. It certainly didn't show in the music. When Shirley did speak to the crowd, she was extremely gracious, humble and genuine. This is one of the reasons why I love Garbage so much...in addition to the fantastic music they make, all four band members are very well grounded, caring and understand how special and how lucky they are to be in the position that they are, after 7 years away, selling out night after night to a room full of adoring fans. Yes, we do still care. And it's great to know that the band doesn't take any of it for granted.

    The set list was a great mix of old and new, singles and album cuts. Not My Idea, #1 Crush and Cherry Lips were all pleasant surprises for me. These songs weren't played when I saw the band for the first time in Minneapolis in 2005 and #1 Crush and Not My Idea, in particular, have a special place in my heart.

    Set List

    The new songs sound fantastic live, but I especially enjoyed hearing Blood for Poppies live. Duke strapped on his big and beautiful red Guild Stratfire III, and the main guitar riff took on an entirely new life in the live setting. The crowd knew all the words to the new singles, Blood for Poppies (US) and Battle in Me (UK). This surprised some reviewers, but this was a crowd full of die hard fans. Why would you expect otherwise? Blood for Poppies has been added to numerous radio playlists, the band gave away the single via their website prior to the iTunes release, and it's available for purchase on the US iTunes store. Of course the crowd would know all the words! And Battle in Me, while not available on iTunes in the US, is available via the 7digital.com UK store. Many of us have already purchased both singles via digital download or have been hitting the "replay" button on the band's YouTube channel.

    After Blood for Poppies, Shirley paused for a moment to address the crowd. She taunted us, asking if we're risk takers and gamblers and wanted to hear a new song, or if we wanted to play it safe and hear something we knew. The fans, of course, very enthusiastically chose the new material and the band busted out Man on a Wire. It begins with a funky punk rock guitar riff with a very 4/4 quarter note snare drum part that wouldn't be out of place in a White Stripes song. A few measures in, Shirley joins the band and the song is turned up to 11. I am pretty sure this is going to be a fan favorite and crowd was very into this one.

    The crowd definitely needed a rest after Vow, Blood for Poppies and Man on a Wire and so the placement of Milk next in the set list was perfect. The cool blue lights in combination with the white spotlight on Shirley was absolutely spectacular.

    After the crowd's little breather came Only Happy When It Rains. This has never been my favorite Garbage song, but the new arrangement is incredible. It starts out ballad style, with Shirley's vocals front and center, accompanied by an almost synthesized strings and acoustic sounding guitar. The new intro made a fantastic transition between the two previous slow songs before kicking things into high gear for the last time of the regular set. After the gorgeous intro, the drums (and bass) kick in for the chorus....toms and bass drum, all 8th notes...building the tension for the explosion that is the second verse, which is played in traditional fashion. The whole re-worked first verse and first chorus gave me chills.

    The energy was electric after Only Happy When it Rains and the band turned up the dial a bit more by closing out the regular set with Push It. The crowd responded in kind by singing along and completely belting out the chorus. It was a great way to end to the regular set. The band made us wait quite a while for the encore, well over 3 minutes, and the crowd continued to go crazy during the entire break.

    The lights were phenomenal for both shows, with beautiful blues, reds, yellows and greens, white spotlights, and a touch of smoke to create the perfect atmosphere for a Garbage show. They were classy and cool with a white spotlight on Shirley for the slower songs like Milk and The Trick is to Keep Breathing, bright and energetic for songs like Man on a Wire, and varied and interesting without being distracting for everything else. It was also fairly bright for most of the show, which made taking photos less challenging for my little point and shoot (though I did have to employ my new concert photography technique of "set the mode to continuous, hold down the shutter and pray to the photography gods").

    After the show, my Garbage Board friends and I stuck around as long as we could inside, hoping the band would come out. We even waiting in line for merch...again...just so security wouldn't shoo us out. But finally, they did ask us to leave and we headed toward the El Rey's back door. It was there that we met up with several other board members and fans hoping to catch the band on their way out. Every single Garbage fan I've met has been very fun, smart, caring and cool and we had a great time just hanging out and chatting. Security politely asked us to keep our voices down, as there are apartments on the street and they didn't want the neighbors to call the police. We thought we were totally going to catch the band on their way out when we saw security outside, but it was not to be.

    We finally got tired of waiting and headed to the front and Steve and Duke both came out shortly after, chatted, and graciously signed anything they were asked to sign. I didn't get to meet Steve, but I did have the opportunity to talk to Duke and he was as nice, cool and funny as I expected. I wish I had thought to get my ticket stub signed! I'm not sure how it's possible that we missed Shirley, but we did. She must have left out the back when we were chatting with Duke and Steve. But maybe some day I'll get to meet her and thank her. My life today would be significantly different if it were not for Garbage and specifically Shirley Manson.

    All in all, April 9 was a fantastic day. I am so glad to have met so many other fans and to see my all time favorite band for their first show in 7 years was incredible.

    View more photos
  • Sponge - Rotting Pinata: An Under Appreciated Album

    Ott 6 2011, 3:12

    Sponge's debut album, Rotting Pinata, was released way back in 1994 and it's always been an album I could listen to from start to finish, repeatedly, even after *gasp* 17 years - one of the pleasant surprise purchases I bought after seeing Molly (Sixteen Candles) on MTV. You know, back when MTV played music. Soundgarden's Superunknown was another great album I bought during that era, which I bought only because I liked Black Hole Sun.

    I brought Rotting Pinata out for a spin on my run tonight and was reminded just how good it is, collectively. If you have this album in your collection, it's worth dusting it off, getting some good headphones, and finding a dark room for uninterrupted listening.

    You may remember singles Molly (Sixteen Candles) and Rainin' and you probably know Plowed, as it seems to have had a fairly lengthy shelf-life on rock radio. Despite the fact that they did have a few hits, including Wax Ecstatic on their sophomore effort, you're probably thinking "they're that one-hit wonder, STP lookalike band from the 90s". And you wouldn't be entirely mistaken. Vinnie the lead singer does have a slight resemblance and style to Scott Weiland, and of course the sound is what you might call the ubiquitous 90s rock sound, however, this album stands on it's own.

    Rotting Pinata leads off with Pennywheels, a very solid track on it's own that eases you into the distorted and atmospheric goodness that is the rest of the album. The middle of the album is where things get really interesting and I feel like each of the previous tracks builds until you get to track 6, Plowed. Then it's a 1-2-3 punch..Plowed, Drownin' and Molly (Sixteen Candles). I can't tell you how many times I put Drownin' (or the last track, Rainin') on repeat and let it wash away a little teenage angst or mild depression.

    Don't forget about Candy Corn, the bonus track at the end of Rainin'. I have no idea what Vinnie is saying in this song, but the music still manages to evoke an emotional response every time I listen.

    I haven't followed Sponge beyond that first album. I have a copy of Wax Ecstatic and New Pop Sunday, their third effort, but for one reason or another I don't know if I've given either a proper listen. Maybe I've been afraid that they would somehow diminish my love for Rotting Pinata if they were mediocre or worse.

    Today, Sponge, or more accurately, Vinnie Dombroskie (the only remaining original member), is still going and they appear to be doing the indie/indie-label thing, with their latest EP available at CD Baby. I cannot attest to the quality of anything beyond Rotting Pinata, but I may visit some of their later, non-major label releases one of these days.

  • Ladytron and Sonoio at the Fine Line 2011-10-03

    Ott 4 2011, 6:34

    Mon 3 Oct – Ladytron, SONOIO

    The night started off with a DJ set from Jake Rudh, who hosts the weekly dance night and radio show, Transmission. I have to give Jake a lot of credit for knowing his audience and for putting together music perfect for a Ladytron show. We heard everything from Kraftwerk to the Dr. Who theme to The Orb's Little Fluffy Clouds.

    SONOIO opened things up right on time at 8:10 pm. It was just Alessandro Cortini on stage, with, what I presume, was the gadget you see in this video, hooked up to the lights:


    Cortini was on his knees or squatting the whole time, just like in the video, so only about 5 people in the club could actually see anything, but the music was good. It would have been really cool if he had a camera hooked up and pointed at the musical gadget and projected so we could see what he was doing. I wanted to see the hardware device up close.

    Ladytron came out also right on time. Helen Marnie was wearing a white shawl, black headband with large black bow, and was drinking a glass of white wine. Very cute. Mira Aroyo's outfit was a little more subdued. The first song of the night was Soft Power, one of my all time favorite Ladytron songs.

    The last time I saw Ladytron on the Velocifero tour, their instrumentation included guitar but no drums. This time, they brought a live drummer, but had no guitar. The live drummer actually made the set softer than the previous performance, as the drums took the place of some of the driving synths (or maybe that was because the previous performance's mix was WAY too low-end heavy), but I enjoyed what the drums added to the music overall. The sound was pretty bad at the 2009 show (no fault of the band, IMO), and if you're interested in reading about that train wreck, local music blog Gimme Noise reviewed the show here:


    Back to 2011...This was a very good show and the band sounded fantastic. I even caught Helen Marnie smiling during Seventeen, breaking the normally stoic expression she and the rest of the band wear as their regular stage attire. Minneapolis crowds aren't generally big on dancing, tonight being no exception, but they crowd was certainly appreciative and into the set.

    My one complaint is that the set was too short - 15 songs including encore with only acts performing is at least 1-2 songs too few. But I suppose it's best to leave the crowd wanting more and they had good coverage of old tracks, new tracks, hits and more obscure album cuts. For the extra two tracks missing, I'd pick Deep Blue and Another Breakfast With You, as I think those two songs, in particular, would sound great with live drums.

    Set list:

    Soft Power
    International Dateline
    High Rise
    True Mathematics
    White Gold
    Ace of Hz
    Little Black Angel
    Fighting in Built Up Areas

    White Elephant
    Destroy Everything You Touch
  • Ladytron at First Avenue 2009

    Ott 4 2011, 6:14

    After missing Ladytron back in 2006 right when I started getting into the band, I was extremely excited for this show. Unfortunately, it was a big let down. The sound was way too bass heavy and the vocals were drowned out. I can't fault the band for that.

    Since I'm writing this review 2 years later, mostly just to have the set list documented for my own sake, I'll mostly refrain from commenting on the somewhat stoic personas each of the band members portrayed throughout the evening. I am pretty sure this was their intention - to blend into the background just like the pit orchestra does and let the music speak for itself. That would have probably worked much better had the sound been even remotely decent. *sigh* They certainly deserve another look live and I haven't given up on them.

    Here's the set list:

    Black Cat
    High Rise
    True Mathematics
    I'm Not Scared
    Season of Illusions
    Soft Power
    Fighting In Build Up Areas
    destroy everything you touch

    Gimme Noise's review
  • Emilie Autumn at Station 4 2011-02-19

    Feb 20 2011, 21:12

    Sat 19 Feb – Emilie Autumn

    I hadn't heard much of Emilie Autumn's music, but I did know that she's a violinist and that was enough to get me to see her live. It was questionable whether she'd be able to perform, as she had to cancel the past few dates due to a throat infection and no voice. The show went on and despite being under the weather with a voice less than 100%, she gave the performance her all.

    It was an interesting night. Even though most of the music was pre-recorded (minus the vocals and an occasional keyboard or violin part), Emilie Autumn and her merry band of Bloody Crumpets put on a very visually interesting and entertaining show. The performance was quite theatrical in the burlesque style and definitely had what I'd call a musical theater feel to it. The venue, Station 4, wasn't the best place for Emilie Autumn to play, as it's a bit of a dive with a small stage and support posts down the middle of the floor and stage in contrast to the gorgeous costumes and Victorian themes of the performers and the show, but whatcha gonna do?

    I was disappointed that there was not a lot of live violin, but as a fellow violinist, I understand how hard it would be to do much singing and playing at the same time. It's nearly impossible to do so with proper violin technique and Emilie Autumn definitely has a very textbook playing style.

    Some interesting moments during the evening included the Crumpets throwing freshly licked tea cookies out at the crowd, a bit called the "Rat Game" whereby a female audience member who has never kissed a girl before is brought on stage to kiss Crumpet Veronica, and one of the Crumpets did an extended crowd surf and then later donned stilts.

    Even if you don't like Emilie Autumn's music, it is definitely worth seeing her live show, as she is a true entertainer.

    On an somewhat unrelated note, after I got home from the show, I checked out Emilie Autumn's Twitter page and saw this rant about people asking for freebies...free tickets to shows, free VIP passes, free whatever:


    Her post struck a chord with me, as I have made it a point for the past 10+ years to support independent artists. It started by my decision to boycott the RIAA in 2000 (RockBand tracks are one of very few exceptions) and seek out music by independent artists and labels. Today, I not only spend my hard earned money on independent music, but I also attend a large number of concerts, help spread the word about the indie artists I find interesting via my podcast (of which I fund entirely out of my pocket), and also promote concerts. I put a lot of time, money and energy into supporting independent music and while I don't expect everyone to put in the same amount of effort, freeloaders who just don't get it do really annoy me.

    Autumn writes:

    "To all those asking for free tix, free this, free that, kindly permit me inform you that the amount of $$$ I have lost on touring during the past five years is nothing short of astronomical, is far more than an upper class American's yearly salary, and could in fact purchase a small city."

    It is abundantly clear that Emilie Autumn takes her craft very seriously and I can't imagine how frustrating it must be as a struggling artist to be constantly bombarded with requests from people who claim to be fans yet who are not willing to shell out a small amount of money for a concert ticket, music, whatever to help support the art they enjoy. It's a small price to pay to help ensure the artist is able to continue making art and to continue touring. I understand that we are in an economic crisis right now, but if you're really as big of a fan as you say you are, plan ahead, save up and get yourself to the show. If it's not possible to for you to buy a ticket, don't go begging to the artist for a free ride. That's just rude.

    Autumn's post isn't all negative. She says at the end:

    "On the lovely side, fuck the major (and minor) labels of the world who claim that nobody is paying for music anymore, because there is ONE thing and one thing only from which I derive any income at all, and that is digital downloads bought via my own website and iTunes by honest, fair, and incredibly kind Plague Rats around the world who know very well that they could easily download pirated copies for free, but choose not to. For this I thank you endlessly and wholeheartedly, as do Basil, Sir Edward, and the other hundreds of Asylum ratties who get to eat because of you:)."

    In response to Autumn's tweet and after having purchased a hard copy of Opheliac at the show, I also purchased a digital download of the Girls Just Wanna Have Fun & Bohemian Rhapsody EP and Laced/Unlaced (Double Disc). While I enjoy Autumn's music, I wouldn't consider myself a big fan. So why spend my money on 3 albums and a concert ticket in the span of 24 hours? Because promoting creativity and supporting truly unique and talented artists is important to me. Thank you, Emilie Autumn and all the other artists out there who choose make the sacrifices necessary to devote your lives to your original art.
  • Cwn Annwn CD Release Show w/The Pimps, Gracepoint 2011-01-22

    Gen 24 2011, 1:18

    I arrived to the Triple Rock about 5 minutes into Gracepoint’s set. As Cwn Annwn guitarist Neil James commented during the interview on Aztalan Turf, episode 23, Gracepoint is an extremely technically talented group of musicians. They are also a very tight band. Sound-wise, Tennessee’s vocals are a cross between Second Coming’s Travis Bracht and Metallica’s James Hetfield. They had lots of nice guitar harmonies, fast drumming, and fancy bass playing.

    I would have liked to see more movement on stage, however, especially out of vocalist Matt Tennesse. So while there were some very technically and sonically impressive moments out of Gracepoint, including some incredible Eddie Van Halen style tapping in harmony from both guitarists during the last song, I wasn’t really feeling Gracepoint, though I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing them again.

    Rockford, Illinois band The Pimps were up next. The Pimps fuse quite a few different styles into their quirky rock. I heard everything from punk to 80s metal to country to prog rock. The Pimps also weaved in quite a bit of banter and story telling into their set, at one point even bringing up an audience member named Reed, hand selected by the audience, who’s a student studying Human Resources and appeared to be fairly unimpressed by the set. The band proceeded to crack a few jokes at Reed’s expense and then sang about his chosen profession.They closed with a cover of Charlie Daniel’s Devil Went Down To Georgia, which was the highlight of the set for me.

    If you’re easily offended, it would be in your best interest to forget that The Pimps exist. There’s a shock value to some of the things said on stage and they were even selling t-shirts that said “Thank God I’m an Aethist” (I almost bought one but didn’t have enough cash for both a CD and a t-shirt). However, if you’re not easily offended and enjoy seeing a bunch of funny, witty, smart ass punks playing up tempo and musically interesting songs, then be sure to go catch The Pimps live.

    Cwn Annwn closed out the night, playing their new concept album The Alpha and the Omega from start to finish. There were two highlight for me. The first was actually the instrumental track, Gaea’s Rebirth. I know the band was nervous about playing this one live because 1. it’s an instrumental 2. it’s long at almost 10 minutes and 3. it’s the 4th song on the album and thus the 4th song in the set, which could potentially send everyone outside for a smoke break or perhaps even back to the car with thoughts of warm blankets waiting at home (it was below zero degrees F out, after all). While a few people did take a smoke break, the majority of the crowd remained and remained enthusiastic throughout the song.

    The band put on a phenomenal performance on a very technically difficult track. The track really showcased bass player Mike Strohkirch’s skills on the 6 string fretless bass. Yes, I said fretless. I spoke with Storkirch briefly after the set and he said he’s only been playing fretless for a few months, which is quite impressive. James said this was the only chance to see Gaea’s Rebirth live, as they will be retiring it from their live sets going forward, and I was glad I was able to see it performed this once.

    The second highlight for me was the final track, Nova. This one also appeared to be the crowd favorite. Nova is about as heavy as Cwn Annwn gets with frequent growls from both Stohkirch and James complimenting vocalist Julie Schultz’s clean and powerful melodies. I’m sure this song will be a regular inclusion in future live sets.

    Overall, this was a solid performance from Cwn Annwn with lots of energy. Look for their next show in early March. They’re putting on a metal show / tattoo expo and full details are coming soon.
  • I:Scintilla Dying & Falling Review

    Nov 27 2010, 0:08

    I:Scintilla continue to push their genre defying sound in their latest full length, Dying & Falling, released on November 26. Before I get too far into this review, I do have to issue a disclaimer. I've been following I:Scintilla since 2004, when I stumbled across their MySpace page in search of new industrial-type bands. At the time, they were a young but promising band out of Urbana-Champaign, IL and what really set them apart from the other electronic bands I was encountering were the vocals, the emotion and the fusion of styles present in their early work. I:Scintilla have continued to gain momentum and international attention since signing with Alfa Matrix in 2006. I've watched I:Scintilla grow up as a band and feel in some ways like I've been on this journey with them, even though I'm just a passive listener.

    As with most Alfa Matrix releases, Dying & Falling comes in two flavors - the 11-track, 1 disc regular edition and the 22-track, 2 disc limited edition box set. I have yet to be disappointed by one of Alfa Matrix's 2-cd box sets and the box set is very well done. Singer Brittany Bindrim is also an artist and each page of the 12-page booklet for both editions contains her paintings along with full lyrics. Packaging for the 2 disc version also contains a poster, stickers, a postcard and of course, the bonus disc. Fans in North America can order either version direct from I:Scintilla's site, where you'll receive free shipping and can buy the album on it's own or choose from various CD and merch combo packages.

    If you're outside North America, you can order direct from Alfa Matrix. They have some combo specials running that are worth checking out. In particular, you can order the 2 CD version of Dying & Falling and a 4 CD box set of your choice - one of the options is the excellent Vampire Freaks Fuck the Mainstream compilation, which is no longer available from Vampire Freaks and is becoming harder and harder to find. Get it while you can!

    Swimmers Can Drown
    The album opens with Swimmers Can Drown, which is a and sonic roller coaster. We're greeted with a crunchy but quiet solo guitar and soon after, a thumping 4/4 bass line and synths quickly join before quieting down for the verse. Swimmers Can Drown certainly grabs your attention as an opener. Tension builds as the bass synth continues to thump in the background behind Britany Bindrim's melodic vocals during the first two verses. Suddenly, the vocals turn angry for the pre-chorus, joined by distorted guitar and the whole bands lets 'er rip for the chorus. The lyrics in the verses are very complex, even including and rhyming with the word "dogmatically", but the poetic gymnastics in the verses don't sound forced. The quick sonic changes provide a great introduction to the band's diverse style.

    Sharia Under a Beauty Curse
    Crunchy, syncopated, stacatto, brooding, and distorted are all words that come to mind when describing Sharia Under a Beauty Curse. I:Scintilla continue to build energy and keep the intensity up with this second track. The subject matter is quite heavy yet the song manages to leave the listener with a feeling of empowerment, hope and overcoming adversity. These are recurring themes throughout the rest of the album.

    The first two tracks on the album build on each other, increasing the tension and the album completely erupts once Ammunition kicks in. Ammunition was originally released on 2009's Prey on You EP and is pure, raw anger personified. It is much, much heavier than anything we'd yet heard from I:Scintilla and the first time I heard this song in late 2009, it completely floored me. The mechanical drums and beats are relentless, even throughout the strobe-like breakdown. And while I like a good, growly set of vocals just as much as the next death metal fan, I also really appreciate when a band can convey the sort of emotion that comes out in Ammunition simply using clean vocals and dynamic range. That is a testament to I:Scintilla's craft.

    Worth the Wait
    I heard Worth the Wait for the first time at a live show in Milwaukee this past July. I was immediately drawn to the song even though the sound wasn't very good at the venue (the space doesn't really facilitate an amazing sonic experience). The live mix was also a bit too bass heavy, which drowned out the vocals somewhat. Despite the sound challenges, this song's chorus stuck with me well after the show was over.

    It would be impossible to keep up the energy of the first three tracks after the explosion that is Ammunition and the listener gets a much needed rest with Worth the Wait. Worth the Wait starts out quiet with a minimal keyboard part before the heavily distorted guitars kick in with some punch. Along with the distorted guitars is a great bass synth that pulses and drives the song forward.

    Despite the noisy entrance, I:Scintilla know when to scale back the sonic assault to highlight singer Brittany Bindrim's vocals for maximum emphasis and effect. There's some great lyrical imagery here with phrases like "Sun crawling up skin" and "History's harsh waves crash and tear." I have to say that this was the most surprising song on the album for me, even though I'd heard it live. There are a lot of subtleties that didn't come across live at the Milwaukee show.

    To me, this is ultimately a song about deciding to make a change in your life, being patient and following through amidst challenges and sacrifice to create a new beginning for yourself and follow your dreams by designing your own fate. The theme is very similar to one of my favorite songs, "Not Coming Down," by the now defunct Milwaukee band You're Pretty. I'm a sucker for dark yet positive or empowering songs that aren't preachy and there are quite a few on Dying & Falling.

    Mothership is a straight up 4/4 rocker with resulting sound a little bit Republica, a little bit Garbage and a little bit Curve. No new ground is tread here musically, but Mothership is a fun, solid track and one that I'd expect to translate very well live.

    Dying & Falling
    The album's title track is one of my favorites. There's a great, grooving bassline that is in some ways reminiscent of the early 90s Susan Vega hit, Tom's Diner. Bindrim's vocals float beautifully over the grooves and electronic noises and convey a message of hope through the chaos and ugliness that constantly surrounds us.

    The song is fairly melancholic. My brain conjures up images someone walking alone on the streets of Chicago and at Navy Pier on a cold, dark and cloudy November day. I:Scintilla generally don't do a lot of vocal processing in their work, but they use vocal processing here to great effect in concert with lyrical repetition to add emphasis to various phrases. Despite the melancholy, there's an uplifting message repeated throughout best described by the following lines:

    "We are dying
    We are falling
    But there's no reason why we can't rise
    While we're here"

    Bindrim and Cookas discussed this song in depth when I interviewed them for Aztalan Turf Podcast. The lyrics were written as Bindrim was coming to terms with her religious beliefs, but the ultimate message is that whatever you believe in, stand up for it and follow that path, even if it's not the popular path.

    Face the KillAfter a bit of a breather with Dying & Falling, the intensity is once again cranked up a notch for Face the Kill. Though the track isn't very memorable for me, it's certainly not what I'd call a throwaway track and I look forward to hearing it live.

    The Shake
    Hello strings! And I don't mean guitars. We have real-life cello on an electronic rock album, folks. The Shake is easily the most raw we've seen I:Scintilla. The song begins with just a cello or two, piano and vocals. This is a big risk for an electronic rock band and if there's any song your stereotypical "old school" fans are going to pick on, it's going to be this one because it is so stripped down. But it's definitely still I:Scintilla and it's definitely a beautiful and powerful piece.

    They show restraint and maturity throughout much of the song by letting the simple instrumentation and Bindrim's very honest vocals work their magic on this very exposed and personal song. They do add some elaborate symphonic soundscapes near the middle and I think scaling the layers and soundscapes back a bit may have been more effective. You can hear an acoustic version of The Shake from their set at Dragon*CON on YouTube. There's also an alternate version of The Shake on the bonus disc in the limited edition version. So while I do think The Shake is a very good song, I prefer the acoustic version and the Volatile Night Version on the second disc to the cut on the regular release.

    Prey on You
    Prey on You was the title track of the band's 2009 EP. The sound, in particular during the chorus, is very classic I:Scintilla with some very nice, ethereal sounds behind an upbeat and danceable synth line and Bindrim's lovely floating vocals. It also takes the classic I:Scintilla sound heard on Optics and pushes things a bit farther with some cool modulation (i.e. key changes for the non-music theory geeks) and is even more danceable than songs like Ultravioletfly and Cursive Eve. Though the song is quite long clocking at 6:32, it doesn't drag. Prey on You is very fun musically, yet still contains numerous layers with lyrics discussing the topics of religion, faith and religious guilt.

    The trancey, danceable, Prey on You gives way to the pounding military drum corps-esque beats of Shattered. The snare marches this song forward relentlessly, working with the crunchy guitars, ethereal synths and powerful vocals to create a rich and full sonic assault. Wake up your neighbors with this one because it absolutely must be played at high volume.

    Omen rounds out the album. The lengthy breakdown beginning at about 2:10 through the end of the song serves as a great ending to the album as the fast-paced verses dissipate into a slow and ethereal closing.

    The Bonus Disc
    The 2-CD version is worth it just for I:Scintilla's cover of I Want It All by Depeche Mode, but there are lots of other goodies on the disc, as well. I'm not typically that excited about remixes, but the remixes here are all solid. My favorites are the Volatile Night Version of The Shake and the Neurobash Mix of Worth the Wait. Each remix adds a new take on the original without losing the original version's soul.

    Dying & Falling really showcases the band's range without losing focus or energy. If you're new to I:Scintilla, they are definitely a band to watch. Often, the biggest fans are the harshest critics and if I didn't honestly believe this album was phenomenal, I wouldn't have spent so much time listening to the songs on repeat in order to write this glowing review.
  • I:Scintilla Dying & Falling Contest

    Ott 22 2010, 2:39

    The contest is now closed and winners have been announced. Thanks to all who entered!

    In anticipation of the release of I:Scintilla's latest album, Dying & Falling, I'm running a contest via Twitter. Each of two winners receives a copy of I:Scintilla's Dying & Falling (standard edition). I:Scintilla is an excellent band with an amazing new album that I think everyone should hear, so I'm spending a little of my own money to get the album in the hands of some new listeners and future fans.

    I'll be playing new tracks from I:Scintilla in each of the upcoming shows through the release of Dying & Falling on November 26. I'm really excited about the album and I want to share my excitement with all of you, faithful listeners and friends.

    Contest Rules
    It's pretty simple. Post this exact tweet (or a RT) from your Twitter account:

    I <3 @aztalanturf podcast. RT to enter to win a copy of I:Scintilla's new album, Dying & Falling. #aziscintilla

    Don't forget the hash tag! Two winners will be chosen at random and announced on episode 18, which will be released around November 6. I'll contact the winners via Twitter.
  • Review: The Dreaming at The Rave, April 5, 2008

    Ago 8 2010, 22:03

    Disclaimer: The sound in this room was TERRIBLE, so it’s hard to write a fair review for the openers.

    Johnny and Chris from The Dreaming were wandering around before their set, listening to some of the openers, which was very cool. Chris recognized me from the 3 other shows I was at and walked up to say hello, which was also very cool of him. They’re a great bunch of people, aside from being talented musicians, and it really makes me want them to do well because of it. So please excuse me if I get overly excited about them. Anyway...on to the review....

    First band
    They were a bunch of high schoolers from the LaCrosse area. Their set was unimpressive, but I think they’re going to be pretty good some day either as individuals in other bands or together. The lead guitarist was playing a Wolfgang and was quite good. I don’t remember their name, though.

    Blackbox is a two-piece with just a guitarist / singer and drummer. Let me just say the drummer had some crazy hair and he is amazingly skilled, too. Their music was a little punk with some electronics but I’m not sure exactly what to call it. About two songs into the set, a bat started flying around the stage. The singer was joking around quite a bit about it after they finished the song. Apparently that was a Blackbox first. It was a very energetic set and I am looking forward to hearing more from the band in an environment where the sound system does not suck so much. I picked up a sampler cd and a radio sampler which includes some acoustic tracks from Scott Lucas of Local H.

    Harmony of Lies
    I wasn’t crazy about Harmony of Lies, but again I might have enjoyed them more had the sound been half-way decent. The singer energetic and was doing some sort of Weiland combined with Axl Rose type movements while on stage. Style was rock with some electronics. Not a very memorable set but I did enjoy the last song, as the lead guitar part was quite interesting. Both guitarists were playing Les Pauls and the rhythm guitarist had an especially beautiful one with a natural reddish-brown finish.

    The Brian Schram Band
    The Brian Schram Band played another very solid set (this was the third time I’ve seen them). Their style is very fun, upbeat rock with some amazing guitarwork. Think Buckcherry’s song Lit Up as far as style with some better guitar work mixed with a little AC/DC.

    They’re definitely worth checking out live if they come through your town or if you live in Detroit. They’re also super cool, down to earth guys.

    The Dreaming
    This was probably the best attended of the three shows I’ve seen on this tour (Minneapolis, Rochester MN, and Milwaukee) in terms of people there to see the show. The Minneapolis show had a fair amount of people, but there were a lot of regulars hanging out in back by the bar.

    The crowd was definitely into the set. Many people were singing along and there was some really great energy. Only problem - there was some annoying girl right up front and center that kept grabbing Chris and I was like, WTF?? It’s not a Justin Timberlake show. The guys all stick around after the show to talk to the fans and it was just a little creepy for her to keep trying to touch Chris like that. You could tell he was slightly weirded out because he hesitated a little before jumping back up onto his little box (within reach of the creepy girl). At one point, when someone up front took a call on a cell phone, Chris called them out and said "let me talk to them". He ended up talking to "Donna" for a few seconds while on stage. It was quite amusing.

    Set List

    Dead To Me
    Make It Go Away
    Sticks and Stones
    Become Like You
    Let It Burn
    What Do You Want
    Send Me An Angel

    Encore Break

    Save Yourself

    This was the first time I heard What Do You Want live. I’ve never been crazy about it, but I like it a lot better after hearing it live. There’s something about the recorded version that really bugs me. Sounds a little too "hair metal" for my taste.

    Anyway...another great set by a great band, despite the acoustics of the room and generally crappy sound. I look forward to another tour and the next album.
  • Review: Hole at First Avenue in Minneapolis, July 16, 2010

    Ago 7 2010, 3:23

    Fri, 16 Jul, 2010 – Hole at First Avenue

    Courtney Love owns the stage. Period. If you've been to or seen videos of performances from the mid-90s, you've seen the power she has over a crowd. You also saw her at her most unpredictable and unstable. Though Courtney Love continues to deal with her inner demons, her July 16 performance at Minneapolis' famous showed that things are looking up for the newly turned 46 year-old and it's pretty clear that she's still got it.

    Doors opened at 10 pm and the night started out with Foxy Shazam, who went on stage at about 10:30. The singer made quite an impression as he jumped around and did all kinds of acrobatics on stage. My friend joked that he was worried the singer would run out of moves, but fortunately, he did not. The band played a fairly short but enjoyable set filled with mic throwing and keyboard surfing - and I mean Teen Wolf on top of the van style keyboard surfing. I'd see them again for the performance factor, but I wasn't crazy enough about the music that I would buy a CD. That's not to say they aren't talented musicians and a good band, they just aren't my style. Though the brass instruments didn't annoy me - that's saying something. I typically hate brass instruments. Especially trumpets!

    The wait between Foxy Shazam and Hole was excruciating. The Star Tribune reported an 80-minute break, but if felt like a lifetime. Courtney Love and band finally walked out on stage at about 12:40 pm. She was wearing a sleek black dress and high heels and almost immediately gave a shout out to Hennepin County, the CC Club and Grainbelt beer. She lived in Minneapolis from 1987 - 1989 and was briefly a member of the famous Minneapolis band Babes in Toyland, so the show was a homecoming of sorts for her.

    Love seemed genuinely happy to be back at First Avenue, where she spent a lot of time during those 3 years in Minnesota. She told us about her Minnesota alter-ego, Cricket Nordstrom from Edina, that Minneapolis is where she learned how to play "what little guitar I play" and she talked about some of the Hole songs that had their beginnings here, including the "riff" from Pretty on the Inside, which was written either in a basement about 6 blocks from First Avenue or at Goofys, a strip club of the day. As a fan, I really love shows where you get some back story about the music and this show was filled with great little nuggets of information about Courtney Love's early career and her time in Minnesota.

    After the quick shout out, Courtney strapped on a guitar, put one foot up on the monitor in her classic pose, and the band went into Pretty on the Inside. After a brief detour into a cover of the Rolling Stones' Sympathy for the Devil, the hits just kept coming. It was an excellent show. Probably in the top 10% of all shows I've seen. And I've been to a lot.

    Pretty On The Inside
    Sympathy For The Devil (Rolling Stones cover)
    Skinny Little Bitch
    Miss World
    Pacific Coast Highway
    Reasons To Be Beautiful
    Letter To God
    Asking For It
    Take This Longing (Leonard Cohen cover)
    Someone Else's Bed
    Closer (Nine Inch Nails cover)
    Celebrity Skin
    Unsatisfied (Replacements cover)
    Doll Parts


    Never Go Hungry Again